Online education keeps growing at an accelerating rate, everyday we find online courses and degrees available in universities and colleges worldwide. According to Godwin-Jones (2003), language professionals have welcomed the new teaching trends that the Internet has introduced. First, they tended to use tools such as e-mails, discussion forums and chats, and then they started to use recent innovations such as blogs, wikis, posts and RSS feeds, which still are the order of the day.
However, online education shows two sides, a negative and a positive one. The negative side is that the learning experience could turn too personal and individualistic, that is to say, when taking a distance course, for instance, students could not have the opportunity to share their ideas and learning experience with other classmates but only with their teacher. And on the positive side, students could be part of a community of practice, which could be set and developed for the purpose of language learning and where students will definitively have the opportunity to interact with each other.
Staying on the positive side, there is much that can be said about the new Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). New VLEs not only allow people to take control of and manage their own learning but they set a new trend within the self-taught arena. That is to say, individuals can decide when, where, how long and how to learn using some of the many Web 2.0 tools available on the net.
For instance, in my personal experience as a student of the German language I have downloaded many podcasts with I-tunes to learn German. In these podcasts you can listen to lessons given by a native teacher who makes you repeat sentences to improve your pronunciation. So, I set up a self-teaching plan in which I decided to listen to my German podcasts downloaded in my I-pod when I am stuck in traffic jams in rush hours in Caracas, for as long as I am stuck in traffic. And this is just a tiny example of the many opportunities available on the net for individuals to manage their own learning experience through the use of Virtual Learning Environments.
Godwin-Jones, R. (2003). Emerging Technologies: Blogs and Wikis: Environments for On-Line Collaboration. Questia: Language, learning and Technology. Vol. 7. Retrieved on December 11, 2009 from http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=LjQVXBXhj9T4RQbLnBFky7W21Hy5kVnSJD1JNKG7GTLHxhLQGWqy!-799558367!1699119870?docId=5002623298